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Aller to retire after lifetime of helping kids

by on November 30, 2017 9:38 AM

STATE COLLEGE — Across Center County, many children have Donna Aller to thank for a permanent, stable home.

The career Children and Youth Services worker will retire on Dec. 1 after 31 years and hundreds of children aided in possibly the most tumultuous and sometimes abusive periods of their lives.

She began her journey in Schuylkill County, her home, and worked there 2 ½ years before coming to Centre County. After her child was born, she then worked on adoptions part time on weekends and evenings. Aller did foster home studies and aided families with the paperwork and supervision and inspection requirements that go along with the adoption process.

This was all before the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network stepped in and began doing that work for counties.

Aller can be credited with helping to modernize the county’s foster care system after restrictions became tight and it was more than a matter of just placing a call to a reliable family that someone personally knew.

“As the agency grew and as the requirements for foster care grew, it became impossible,” she said of the old system.

The systems are also changing for the better, she said as “it used to be when a child was placed in foster care that was the end of it.”
Now, CYS employees work more toward removing the barriers for the family so the child can return there, also known as reunification.
Now, they try to figure out what it’s going to take for the child to go home as opposed to a child bouncing around through foster care. If that doesn’t work, then perhaps adoption is in the cards because that’s the next best permanent option, always a priority for CYS workers, she said.

“I’ve always considered the child to be the client,” she said when discussing her approach to families.

She said she’s often asked how she continues to do the tough work, where resentment can run high and perceptions can be negative.

She’ll reply that it’s important for someone to be representing the interests of the child when they’re unable to. It also doesn’t hurt to have a sense of humor.

But ultimately, she said, “It’s a worthwhile position. It matters.”

There are times in the line of work when it’s frustrating, when a foster placement doesn’t work and the child and family just aren’t a good fit for each other.

The success stories also keep her going, she said. She talked about a recent case where a young girl was placed in foster care.

“We had to hospitalize her several times,” Aller said. Her language was awful and she was nasty to others. But a placement seemed to work out, and the child was much friendlier and appeared much happier than she had been.

There were also times Aller said she could recall when multiple siblings found a foster home and the family was able to mesh everyone in.

She said many more foster parents are needed in Centre County. It’s much better to keep a child local if possible, and even better if they can be kept at their same school.

Aller also asked that anyone who sees a problem in a family should call CYS, who will determine if there is severe neglect or immediate danger to a child’s life. She said people are sometimes frustrated when they think CYS hasn’t followed through on a complaint, but Aller countered that because of strict confidentiality for the sake of the parents and child, they’re often unable to trumpet their accomplishments or report out on interventions.

Though Aller won’t be working full time, there are a lot of loose ends she said she will be attending to as far as open cases. There’s also the 31 years worth of stuff in her office she said she’s not looking forward to cleaning out.


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